Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Week Seventeen--Greening Your Cooking

Now that it's gotten warm outside, one of my favorite ways to cook dinner is to use our gas grill. It's so easy to marinate chicken breasts during the day and then throw them on the grill around dinner time for a quick-and-easy dinner. But I've always wondered if grilling was a green cooking option?

According to the Sierra Club, it is. In fact, your best grilling option is a propane-powered outdoor grill. It is supposedly the cleanest-burning grill type out there. Electric grills are a fine green option, too. What's not a great green grilling idea is a grill or barbecue that uses charcoal. Not only is the charcoal a culprit in increasing your carbon footprint, but so is the lighter fluid that you inevitably have to squirt on the coals to get them to become red hot and ripe for cooking.

Let's say that you're not interested in cooking outdoors or it's not an option based on where you live. Then if you want to cook in the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly manner, I would recommend turning to your microwave.

Believe it or not, your microwave uses the least amount of cooking energy in your kitchen. (Plus, vegetables steamed in a microwave lose fewer nutrients than those steamed on the stovetop. Why? This New York Times article says that it's because microwave ovens use less heat and shorter cooking times than stovetops. Interesting.)

Your next best cooking option, as far as energy is concerned, is your Crock-Pot or slow cooker. I don't know about you, but I sort of have a mental block about using the slow cooker in warm weather. I associate it with winter comfort foods, not summer dishes. Nonetheless, if you're looking to cut your energy use, maybe you shouldn't moth-ball your slow cooker once winter is over.

For a rundown on how much energy each kitchen appliance uses, check out this chart on the Mr. Electricity website. You'll see that, overall, cooking doesn't use a ton of energy in the big picture, but if you really want to green how you cook your meals, every little change you can make can help.


hhorn said...

I'm with you on the summer slow-cooker thing. Any thoughts on what to cook? I'd love to use it more!

~M said...

Crockpots are great in summer - they don't heat up the entire kitchen like an oven or stovetop - and they let you play outdoors until dinnertime because the food doesn't need to be watched.

~M said...

PS- There are tons of crockpot recipes online - check out http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/ - and probably books at your library.

In the summer, I do make some stews, chilis, and soups (what most people think of as "winter food"). But I also make chicken breasts with salsa, poach fish on spinach, and cook bean dishes like for topping salads or tacos.

hhorn said...

Thanks for the tip - what a great site!

volleyjoy said...

I use my crockpot in warm weather to cook food that helps me throw together meals quickly, not necessarily to cook full meals. I prefer shredded chicken in most recipes, instead of cubed, so I usually cook my chicken in the crockpot overnight and put it in the fridge while I’m at work. It’s ready to shred and use (burritos, bbq chicken sandwiches, salads, quiche, etc). I often season it according to how I’m going to use it while it’s cooking (bbq sauce, taco seasoning). BBQ Beef or Pulled pork sandwiches are also so simple and delicious in the crockpot and are perfect for summer. Plus pork shoulders or country-style ribs often go on sale this time of year and work wonderfully for pulled pork. You can also use it to cook dried beans instead of using canned. If you still don’t believe, just google “slow cooker hot fudge brownies”, a recipe by Reynolds…they are incredible---just imagine....brownies without heating up the oven!

Sara said...

Even better... you can use your crockpot in the garage or outside so the little that the crockpot does warm the air won't affect the inside of your home.

Solar ovens are a great green tool as well. Or so I've heard. I've never had one to use myself.

Leah Ingram said...

Hey all you Crock-Pot lovers: I just found a cool blog you might want to check out: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

It's all Crock-Pot recipes, all the time.



Crockpot Lady said...

Hi Leah,
thank you for the link to my blog and for your kind words.

it's a fantastic idea to plug in the crockpot in the garage or basement during the hot summer months.